Monday, September 22, 2008

An Autumn Early Morning Routine...

This morning I built a fire in the woodstove for the first time this fall.

I was up at 4:47 a.m. today. Melissa was getting ready for work, and it woke me, but I didn't mind because I like to get up that early. The first thing I do every morning is check the thermometer right outside my bedroom window, and today it said 22 degrees. Not the coldest it's been this month, but it's definitely chilly, and the house felt colder than usual this morning-- too cold-- because days are getting shorter and recent weather has been cool.

So, for the first time this fall, I built a fire in the woodstove. And the first fire seems to usher in the new season. This is when I know that fall has truly arrived. Wood will now be perpetually stacked on the deck and in the reddish wood container by the stove. I won't be spending mornings out in the sunny backyard any more. My life will increasingly move indoors, but that's okay because I have routines for the cold seasons that I enjoy, just like I do in summer.

Pleasant routines are something we can mindfully create, aren't they? Over time, we realize what we very much enjoy and how we like to do things. We set up an atmosphere that stimulates and inspires us, making it as pleasant and warm as we can. I do my best to make all of my daily routines nice-- my seasonal morning routines, my chores, meal times, my afternoon coffee break, whatever I do.

One thing I really do enjoy is my morning fire-building ritual in cold weather months. Each night, before I go to bed, I carry in a pile of wood to put next to the stove, and I make sure there are paper and matches on hand for making a fire. And, in the morning I get up in the dark and head straight for the woodstove. I like getting up in the dark. I get to watch the world wake up.

I start the fire and tend it until it's crackling, and then I establish a bit of morning atmosphere. I like all of the rooms to be tidy. I like the table to be clear of everything but what is pretty. I turn on lamps for gentle light. I heat water in the kettle and brew coffee in the French press, then I pour it into just the right mug. I place my familiar morning things in the area where I'll sit (whether it's at the dining table or in the comfy green chair that is adjacent to the woodstove).

I take my Bible, journals, notebook, and devotional book from the little standing shelf that sits on my reading table, and I find a pen that writes just how I like a pen to write. Then I wrap my grandmother's quilt around myself, sit down, and settle in to sip coffee, write in my journal, and be still. I love that it's always silent in the house in the early morning except for the snapping and crackling of the fire in the stove.

This might seem contrived and unreal to those who can't bear to look morning in the face, but it's my general fall and winter routine, and I like it. I follow it pretty faithfully, but there are days when it varies or doesn't happen at all. Whatever is going on, I try to begin each day with a grateful mind and heart, listing my blessings and thanking God for them. (No matter what is happening, there is much to be thankful for.) I spend some time reading, writing, thinking, praying.

Eventually, I pull out the notebook containing my (very simple) autumn housekeeping plan and look it over. I decide what we'll have for meals, what household work needs to be done, and check to see what errands or activities, if any, are on the schedule. Today is a stay-home day, and besides routine tidying and cleaning, my focus is to get bedrooms deep-cleaned. Dinner is planned-- Pan-Roasted Halibut with Roasted Cherry Tomatoes and Butternut Squash (from Sara Foster's cookbook, Fresh Every Day).

Once my quiet time is over and the day's tasks are noted and my coffee is finished, I get up from the table and get busy. I've learned that I get much more accomplished when I do my chores in the early morning. That's one reason I like to be up extra early for quiet time. Things go much better when I have my quiet time first thing and then carry on with my day. So, even on days when I don't feel like getting up in the morning, I choose to get up. And then I do what I can to make a good day, and by God's grace, it is.